Growing up in Mississippi in the 1960s, Print Clark, an African American, didn’t like white people.
He had to walk on a different side of the street, couldn’t be out at night and wasn’t allowed in many restaurants.
“Honestly, it made me not like white people, but I was fortunate enough to join the Army and to learn to like all races, because we all have to depend on each other, no matter our race,” said Clark, now 56, at Monday’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in downtown Fort Worth.
Clark and his wife, Sharon, brought their two grandsons to the parade, just like they used to bring their own children, so that they can pass on the legacy of peace and equality they learned from civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
“We need to educate the younger generation, so they can keep the work going and know about MLK history and know to pass that down,” said Sharon Clark, 53, who remembers not being able to sit inside a five-and-dime store in downtown Fort Worth.
“If it wasn’t for MLK, none of this would be possible,” Sharon Clark said. “We wouldn’t be here today.”
Sharon Clark, who attended the historic I.M. Terrell High School, a segregated black campus in Fort Worth, said racism blocked African Americans from reaching their full potential. She is proud her two grandsons, who also attended the parade, ages 8 and 10, don’t face the same obstacles.
The parade, sponsored by the Greater Fort Worth Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Committee, included hundreds of participants from the Tarrant County Democratic Party, several high school marching bands, car clubs, elected officials, fraternities and sororities and other organizations.
Marcus Hawkins, 30, and Shamonda Canady, 32, had their children do research on Martin Luther King Jr. to prepare for the parade.
“It is a day of history, and they need to know it,” Hawkins said.
Mercedes Canady, 14, said her research project on King taught her how white and black people came together and that “black people were important, as well as white people.”
As the parade wound through 19 blocks of downtown, the 4th Annual MLK Day of Service 2014 had already kicked off across town.
Skin color doesn’t matter
Starting at 8 a.m., about 400 people came to Baker Chapel A.M.E. Church for a worship service and to do volunteer work at 30 different sites, such as the Humane Society of North Texas and Samaritan House, said Melinda Veatch, executive director of Tarrant Area Community of Churches. The event started in 2010 with 150 volunteers.
“One of the most important lessons of this whole event is what people can do when they work together,” Veatch said. “We spend a lot of time thinking about how we differ from one another, but it is incredible the amount of life that happens when we recognize how similar we are.”
African Americans, Anglos and Hispanics, the young and the old, came together for the day of service.
A first-grader at Saintsville Academy and Preparatory School, Makaila Smith, 7, was one of 22 kids to volunteer her day off from school and pack lunches for the homeless.
“We celebrate him [MLK] because he did something. He wanted all the blacks and all the whites to be friends. He didn’t care about if they were white or black or what kind of skin they were,” said Makaila, as she packed a white paper bag full of food.
‘We are getting there’
Regina Miles, 61 and a teacher at the Saintsville school, said the day of service teaches both kids and adults to work together to help those in need.
Miles was 11 when King marched on Washington and said remembering MLK is important to the society.
“I remember riding in the back of the bus. I remember the different water fountains. Every school I attended was not integrated. I graduated in 1970 from the historical I.M. Terrell High School, so I know all about the struggle,” Miles said.
“We have a little bit further to go, I think, but we are getting there. And everybody is working together, as you can see today, there are different cultures and people here and we are just having a fantastic day,” Miles said.
A leader in the civil rights movement, King traveled over 6 million miles and spoke over 2,250 times between 1957 and 1968, according to his biography from on Nobel Prize website.. He led a peaceful march on Washington D.C. in 1963, where he delivered his “ I Have a Dream” speech.
King is the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. He was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis.